Eye on Ivan
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Harrison County Civil Defense Director Linda Rouse, like the rest of the county, is breathing a sigh of relief.
"We dodged the bullet," she said this morning about 7:15. "We came through real well and we're thankful. We could have been like Pensacola."
Early reports indicate damage in the county is low for the size and scope of the storm Hurricane Ivan was presenting to the area just 24 hours ago. Rouse said there are limbs and some trees down throughout the area, power outages for more than 70,000 homes, damage to traffic signals and signs and some water in areas that normally don't flood.
But the heaviest rainfall over the past 24 hours or so occured at Gulfport Harbor, where nearly 2.5 inches fell. In the northwest corner of Harrison County, less than 0.9 inches fell. On average, between 1 and 1.5 inches fell in the area -- far below levels that were expected. The National Weather Service has cancelled flood warnings for the county.
Rouse said a couple of businesses and several homes were damaged by fires. "Overall, I think we fared very well," she said.
All major roads and highways appear to be open and passable. In Gulfport, Lorraine Road at Jigg's fishing camp was still closed. The same was true of a couple roads in Pass Christian around Henderson Point, including Bayou Lane. Water was over the road in Sandy Hook and Ponce de Leon, but the roads were passable.
As of 9 p.m. last night, there were 3,592 people in shelters in Harrison County -- about one-quarter capacity. Shelters at Harrison Central High School and Harrison Central Elementary School lost power, but evacuees remained there to ride out the storm. American Medical Response officials said they repsonded to 21 calls between 7 p.m. Wednesday and 7 this morning. They ranged from people with breathing difficulties to routine response for house fires. One death had been reported this morning, but it was someone with a pre-existing condition and not related to the storm.
Inspection teams were going to check on area hospitals and other health care facilities that had been evacuated to determine whether the structures would allow patients to be returned.
Damage assesment teams were still in the process of making their initial reports, but there had been no notification of problems with the water systems in the county. Gulfport Harbor, which early on appeared to be headed for some trouble because of the rising storm surge, emerged relatively unscathed. A boat in the small craft harbor was reported on top of a pier and water had come into Jones Park in areas typical for heavy weather.
Rouse said people returning to their houses and business should use extreme caution. There are power lines down throughout the area, and associated debris should be be left alone until power crews clear the area for work. There are also limbs and branches hanging from trees that could fall at any point.
When entering houses, check for water-damaged wiring and smell for natural gas leaks. If you smell gas, leave the building immediately and call the gas company. Do not call from inside the affected building.
With traffic signals and signs damaged, be careful and cooperative at intersections.
-- reported by Don Hammack
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